We currently have over 500 positions open across New Zealand and Australia, ranging from cloud engineers and service desk agents to cybersecurity advisors and app developers. We employ nearly 7000 people and the continuing wave of digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic means our headcount is only likely to grow in 2023.

That poses a challenge for us given the tech talent crunch the entire industry is facing. We felt this acutely well before the pandemic closed our borders for two years, cutting off access to highly skilled migrants, traditionally a key source of new hires.

While we are once again welcoming new talent from afar into the Datacom family, we are also conscious we want to continue the progress and the investment we have made over the last few years in growing local talent. We have become a net creator of talent, working with organisations all over the country to welcome people into tech-related roles and reimagining how we support our existing staff to achieve their own career goals.

A tech-powered economy

As the biggest employer in the sector, we feel we have a responsibility to do this. But it also represents one of the biggest opportunities currently before the country. According to the latest TIN200 report from the Technology Investment Network, New Zealand’s top 200 tech companies generated $15.2 billion in revenue this year, up 9% from 2021. The tech sector now constitutes 14% of Aotearoa’s exports, according to TIN, second only to the dairy industry.

Looking out to the end of the decade, there’s a strong likelihood that tech will be our biggest export earner. That’s an exciting prospect because the knowledge economy that tech powers, has the potential to lift the country’s standard of living and enable a low-carbon economy.

Among the TIN200, of which Datacom is the third largest by revenue, the average employee earns $89,711, nearly $28,000 more than the national median of $61,828. At this year’s Hi-Tech awards, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that by 2040, “with a sustained focus on better demographic representation in the sector”, there could be 151,000 extra jobs for women, 93,000 for Māori and 48,000 for Pacific people working in the digital industries.

Portrait of Justin Gray, Datacom MD
Datacom Managing Director Justin Gray says addressing the disparities that prevent more people from pursuing tech-related roles has become a key focus.

So the opportunity is not just to boost economic prosperity, but to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate, to enjoy the benefits of doing meaningful, well-paid work.

This starts with fostering our own workforce. With our Transform programme, we give Datacom staff the opportunity to couple skills development with practical work experience. The world of tech is constantly changing and our staff are hungry to learn and take their careers to the next level. We facilitate that by supporting them to upskill and reskill while they work.

Thriving in the regions

This extends to how and where we do our work at Datacom. We are currently growing faster in the regions than in the main urban centres. Our customers are happy to draw on the skills and expertise of our 7000 staff no matter where they are, so remote working is part of the Datacom way. It means we can live and work exactly where we choose to.

This flexibility and the importance we place on career development, partly explain why Datacom was ranked third in the latest Randstad report looking at the attractiveness of employers in information technology and communications. That puts us behind only EROAD and Trade Me – both valued customers of Datacom – and ahead of many others including IBM, Xero and Spark.

It has given me immense satisfaction to see how we have improved the value proposition for our staff. Equally exciting is seeing the progress we are making in diversifying our talent pool. We still have a very strong graduate programme, where we welcome students with degrees and diplomas.

But addressing the disparities that prevent many from pursuing tech-related roles has become a key focus.

Different pathways

Through our partnership with TupuToa we help Māori and Pasifika graduates find a pathway into Datacom and help them build a career. With the First Foundation, we start even earlier, connecting with high-school students and helping them pursue tertiary education. Five First Foundation scholarship recipients will start internships with Datacom in January.

With Take2, we give prisoners the opportunity to learn skills while still incarcerated that will help them reintegrate into society and start a job at Datacom.

strategic partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has given us a unique opportunity to incorporate the Te Ao Māori worldview into what we do, better understanding the needs of Māori in the tech sector, while offering training and placements for Ngāi Tahu rangatahi.

We’ve collaborated with HTK and Programming Māori & Pasifika Potential (PMP), a digital startup accelerator that introduces rangatahi Māori to business and tech, mentoring and supporting them to refine their ideas from the problem to solutions and prototypes.

Elsewhere, we are collaborating with partners like AWS, Microsoft and Salesforce to help people new to the tech sector gain certification via 12-week programmes that open the door to a tech career. We are working with tertiary education providers on micro-credential schemes and supporting the skills development aims of the Digitial Industry Transformation Plan so that workplace training can result in qualifications and contribute to degrees and diplomas.

All of this is a start. But it needs to be significantly scaled up. Demand for tech-related skills is not standing still. Digital transformation will continue at pace.

But more importantly, the tech industry needs different perspectives and more diverse thinking to actually reflect the society it’s designing and building products and services for. That’s why our commitment to mahi in this area will continue and why being a net creator of talent is core to Datacom’s future.

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